Dealing with the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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November 29, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I am not a big fan of winter.  Sure, I love the beautiful snow, the cheerful spirit around the holidays, and warming up next to a toasty warm fire. But after that, then what?  By the beginning of January, I can personally feel the effects of the Winter Blues sneaking up on me.  Can you relate?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type winterof depression that is related to – you guessed it – the seasons. SAD generally starts in late fall or early winter and can include symptoms of anxiety, and goes away in the spring and summer.  Often, people don’t think about SAD until the symptoms present themselves and the person is seeing the effects in his/her life.

We’re Often Too Busy for SAD, Until…
As we head into the holiday season, life gets so busy for many of us, that we’re not experiencing (or noticing) SAD symptoms.  But when the bustle of the holiday ends, things start to slow down, with less going on to distract us, is often when the descent into depression seems to happen for many people.  By the time somebody notices the symptoms of SAD, it has already impacted their quality of life.

SAD: What to Look For
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are similar to depression with the addition of a couple of things.  Symptoms include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide
  • Social withdrawal (sometimes we call this hibernating)

*Source: The Mayo Clinic

Tackling SAD, Head On!
Here’s a radical idea, get ahead of SAD!  We know how beneficial preventative efforts are.  I am a big believer in being proactive when and where I can.  I love the feeling of knowing I am taking steps to take care of things before there’s a problem. Being preventable often saves TIME and MONEY. Think about what would happen if you didn’t change the oil in your car, how long do you think it would go before having problems? And at what cost?

Additionally, when you take action, you’ll have peace of mind and can relax knowing that things are in good working order. Don’t wait for a problem and then resolve it – attack it head on! While taking preventative measures does not ensure the outcome, we are taking responsibility for our well-being and being active and intentional in our life.

One of the best ways to be proactive with anything is AWARENESS.  If you have experienced depression or SAD in the past, it is essential that you are self-aware of your particular symptoms, as everyone is different.  Your awareness will aid you to take the right action.

Treating SAD – Techniques and Tools

I have some great ideas to head things off at the pass and treat SAD before it becomes a concern for you and your loved ones. I hope these ideas are helpful for you, and if there are things you’re already doing, let me know!

Light-Box.jpg

Lightboxes like the Verilux HappyLight can provide a much needed boost.

Get a Lightbox
Did you know that 20 to 40 minutes of Light Therapy has proven to have a significant impact on SAD?  Many studies have shown that consistent exposure to 10,000 lux of white cool fluorescent light help with mood, sleep, and energy.  “Human beings evolved under the day-night cycle,” said Richard Schwartz, MD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “It is the natural time-keeper that sets our biological clocks within our brains and organs throughout the body.” When those clocks, known as circadian rhythms, get disrupted, it can affect our sleep, mood, and cognitive performance.

Amazon has several affordable models.  I am currently enjoying the Verilux Happy Light. I ordered my light about three weeks ago, and I noticed having more energy throughout the day and sleeping better.

Take Your Vitamins
Hopefully your diet includes plenty of vitamins and minerals, but sometimes, we need a little more.  Many people are Vitamin D deficient which is needed for bone and muscle

NutritionalHealing-book

A great resource for vitamins and eating healthy.

health.  For example, the Sunshine Vitamin, as it’s called, helps your body absorb calcium.  According to Healthline, taking vitamin D helps fight disease, protect against heart disease and helps increase energy.

 

In addition to Vitamin D, other essential vitamins include Vitamin B Complex, Omega-3 fatty acid, calcium, and magnesium.  A great vitamin resource: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food. I purchased it many years ago and find it to be very helpful.

Follow Natures Pattern: Adjust Your Food and Sleep Schedule
Consider waking up a little earlier and getting to bed earlier.  We have much to learn from watching the seasons.  If we think about what is happening in nature, there is a nature inward journey. More energy is given to the things that are unseen, like the roots that are growing and expanding out of sight.  What “roots” do you need to attend and care for?

Eat Seasonally
Just because we can get certain fruits and vegetables all year round, doesn’t mean we should be eating them.  In Ayurvedic medicine, the focus is on creating balance and working with the flow of nature, not against it.  Soups, stews, squashes, and potatoes are warming and healing to the body. Add in warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, and nutmeg for a cup of Golden Milk to make you feel good!

My all-time favorite recipe comes from the Minimalist Baker.  If you haven’t heard about her, check her out on Instagram or her website. All of her creations are amazing!

Exercise!
We were not created to be sedentary. During the warmer months, we tend more active. Whether it is working on home and garden projects, going fishing, hiking, whatever it is, there’s more to do outside.  Get creative with your exercise! YouTube has a lot of programs covering a broad range of different practices; you will most likely find something you enjoy.  You might also consider joining a gym. It can be a great way to meet people who are like-minded people and value health and well-being.

The recommended amount of exercise is five times a week for fifty minutes while performing in your targeted heart rate.  If you are out of shape, no worries, ease into a new routine over time and before you know it, you’ll develop a new and healthy habit.

Get Help! Consider Working With a Therapist
If after you’ve tried things to help with your mood, energy, and outlook, and you still feel depressed, reach out for help.  It’s often beneficial to work with a therapist who can assist you with talking through what’s going on and finding solutions and other ways to think about things, to get relief.

Medication is Nothing to be Ashamed Of
When we experience prolonged depression and or anxiety, the “feel good” chemicals in our brains decrease and contribute to feeling down.  Sometimes it is necessary to consider an antidepressant. Antidepressants are very helpful when combined with a healthy lifestyle for the treatment of more moderate to severe cases of SAD. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and see if medication could be right for you.

Don’t Wait – The Time to Act is Now
If you know you’re affected by SAD, be proactive and take actions now. Get a lightbox, change your eating habits, make sure you’re getting your vitamins and exercise. And get help.

I have availability throughout the winter months – just give me a call and we can tackle SAD together!

Be well,

River Phoenix
630.885.3443
riverjanephoenix@gmail.com


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